Complaints Burden on Small TV Channels

Some small TV channels are blitzed by malicious complaints that Ofcom fully investigates. Sometimes these complaints are not upheld, sometimes they are, but either way the channel has a cloud over it for the 6 months it takes Ofcom to decide even the simplest thing, and the channel incurs significant internal and external costs for each complaint.

The complaints in question are widely believed to be malicious, from rival broadcasters seeking commercial advantage. In some cases the complaint is technically correct, but it comes from a rival showing comparable material – they cannot genuinely claim to be offended. Some complaints relate to obscure channels that complainants claim to have been watching at 3am!

At best channels incur unreasonable costs and suffer months of uncertainty, at worst they are fined £30,000 or even £250,000 for "material likely to cause offence" where there has been no actual offence. Broadcasters have gone out of business as a result, others are marginal.

1. Complaints from 1 or 2 people should not be given the same weight as genuine complaints for 20 or 30 independent people.

2. Broadcasters should be able to insist that Ofcom checks the credentials of a complainant, rather than relying on emails from fake addresses.

3. What is the complainants genuine address (this should be verified but need not be disclosed).

4. Does the complainant have links to rivals?

5. Why was the complainant watching a clearly signposted channel with offensive material at 2 or 3am?

Why is this idea important?

Some small TV channels are blitzed by malicious complaints that Ofcom fully investigates. Sometimes these complaints are not upheld, sometimes they are, but either way the channel has a cloud over it for the 6 months it takes Ofcom to decide even the simplest thing, and the channel incurs significant internal and external costs for each complaint.

The complaints in question are widely believed to be malicious, from rival broadcasters seeking commercial advantage. In some cases the complaint is technically correct, but it comes from a rival showing comparable material – they cannot genuinely claim to be offended. Some complaints relate to obscure channels that complainants claim to have been watching at 3am!

At best channels incur unreasonable costs and suffer months of uncertainty, at worst they are fined £30,000 or even £250,000 for "material likely to cause offence" where there has been no actual offence. Broadcasters have gone out of business as a result, others are marginal.

1. Complaints from 1 or 2 people should not be given the same weight as genuine complaints for 20 or 30 independent people.

2. Broadcasters should be able to insist that Ofcom checks the credentials of a complainant, rather than relying on emails from fake addresses.

3. What is the complainants genuine address (this should be verified but need not be disclosed).

4. Does the complainant have links to rivals?

5. Why was the complainant watching a clearly signposted channel with offensive material at 2 or 3am?

British Justice for British Citizens

No extradition without evidence being tested in UK courts.

No extradition for things that are not offences under UK law.

No extradition for offences that took place in the UK (USA wire transfer, computer, hacking, antiques purchases, etc).

This should apply equally within the EU and outside. Should apply even if a Eurpean Arrest Warrant has been issued.

Extradition should also be subject to a UK Public Interest test and the Home Secretary should have the right (rarely used) to quash it.

Why is this idea important?

No extradition without evidence being tested in UK courts.

No extradition for things that are not offences under UK law.

No extradition for offences that took place in the UK (USA wire transfer, computer, hacking, antiques purchases, etc).

This should apply equally within the EU and outside. Should apply even if a Eurpean Arrest Warrant has been issued.

Extradition should also be subject to a UK Public Interest test and the Home Secretary should have the right (rarely used) to quash it.

Gagging Clauses and Compensation Payments

All too often, someone is offered compensation by a big company, but only if they sign a gagging clause. For ever after they cannot alledge that chemical X produced by company Y caused birth defect Z, so similar. They cannot say company M has unsafe working practices. Even to a Parliamentary investigation. Certainly not to a TV journalist or scientific researcher.

If they are offered compensation but refuse to sign the gagging clause, courts will refuse to grant their legal costs, on the grounds that they could have settled.

Change the law. Limit compensation terms to finance and expicitly ban any restrictions on speech.

Why is this idea important?

All too often, someone is offered compensation by a big company, but only if they sign a gagging clause. For ever after they cannot alledge that chemical X produced by company Y caused birth defect Z, so similar. They cannot say company M has unsafe working practices. Even to a Parliamentary investigation. Certainly not to a TV journalist or scientific researcher.

If they are offered compensation but refuse to sign the gagging clause, courts will refuse to grant their legal costs, on the grounds that they could have settled.

Change the law. Limit compensation terms to finance and expicitly ban any restrictions on speech.

Cancelling TV Packages

Make it quick and easy to cancel TV subscriptions. Equality!

Some small operators of TV satellite channels require subscribers to sign up for a minimum of 12 months. Some make cacellation difficult – 14 days written notice must be given for something that can be effected in 5 minutes. Notifications are "lost". When evetually acknowledged, requests to cancel are too late for this month. A viewer who starts cancelling after 12 months often ends up paying for 15.

None of this would be too bad if viewers were getting the package they signed up for, but under one sided contracts, viewers must sign up for 12 months but the broadcaster can drastically vary their content, removing flagship shows that were the main reason for signing up and gave every appearance of being permanent features.

The channels in question do not incur any equipment set up costs, simply the cost of processing a direct debit, usually 5-10 minutes time for an operator in a call centre.

The operators in question have atrack record of laying on attractive flagship shows and luring subscribers in, knowing full well that they cannot sustain the output, and without the restrictive clauses audience churn would be much higher.

Why is this idea important?

Make it quick and easy to cancel TV subscriptions. Equality!

Some small operators of TV satellite channels require subscribers to sign up for a minimum of 12 months. Some make cacellation difficult – 14 days written notice must be given for something that can be effected in 5 minutes. Notifications are "lost". When evetually acknowledged, requests to cancel are too late for this month. A viewer who starts cancelling after 12 months often ends up paying for 15.

None of this would be too bad if viewers were getting the package they signed up for, but under one sided contracts, viewers must sign up for 12 months but the broadcaster can drastically vary their content, removing flagship shows that were the main reason for signing up and gave every appearance of being permanent features.

The channels in question do not incur any equipment set up costs, simply the cost of processing a direct debit, usually 5-10 minutes time for an operator in a call centre.

The operators in question have atrack record of laying on attractive flagship shows and luring subscribers in, knowing full well that they cannot sustain the output, and without the restrictive clauses audience churn would be much higher.

Late Voting

All polling stations should stay open 1 hour later during General Elections – the current closing time dates from 2 generations ago when society closed earlier.

Allow optional extensions of no more than 1 hour if there are queues or other impediments to voting (like no ballot papers).

Always resource for 100% turnout. Penny pinching is stupid.

If an extension is required find away of identifying people who have turned up in time, but limit late voting to them. Perhaps "work the line" giving out tokens, or stamp the cards sent through the post.

Why is this idea important?

All polling stations should stay open 1 hour later during General Elections – the current closing time dates from 2 generations ago when society closed earlier.

Allow optional extensions of no more than 1 hour if there are queues or other impediments to voting (like no ballot papers).

Always resource for 100% turnout. Penny pinching is stupid.

If an extension is required find away of identifying people who have turned up in time, but limit late voting to them. Perhaps "work the line" giving out tokens, or stamp the cards sent through the post.

Libel: Allow Free Speech

These days the rich can use libel laws to prevent legitiamate criticism. They rely on fear and the high stakes poker game that the High Court has turned into. Having a winnable case is a very minor consideration. Investigative journalism does not take off because rumours do not circulate.

If big business threatens a private individual, or even a small newspaper, with libel proceedings, they have to back down unless they have £100,000 to spare EVEN IF THEY HAVE A WINNABLE CASE.

Introduce a preliminary stage where the person alledging libel must establish to the court's satisfaction that they might have a winnable case. Optionally allow the defendant to argue against this. This must not prejudice use of evidence or arguments later. Whatever the outcome, the defendant does not pay a penny for the preliminary stage, and will not usually be legally represented. Block cases going to full trial without the courts approval.

SECOND Do not recognise in the UK libel awards granted abroad. The Barclay brothers took libel action against The Times in a small regional French court and won. It is arguable that this was because French law is different making it easier for the to win, hence any repetition becomes a criminal offence enforcable in the UK with fines and extradition. The idea that a major national newspaper should be tried in a small Fench court where its circulation is approximately zero is absurd, but a legal fact.

Why is this idea important?

These days the rich can use libel laws to prevent legitiamate criticism. They rely on fear and the high stakes poker game that the High Court has turned into. Having a winnable case is a very minor consideration. Investigative journalism does not take off because rumours do not circulate.

If big business threatens a private individual, or even a small newspaper, with libel proceedings, they have to back down unless they have £100,000 to spare EVEN IF THEY HAVE A WINNABLE CASE.

Introduce a preliminary stage where the person alledging libel must establish to the court's satisfaction that they might have a winnable case. Optionally allow the defendant to argue against this. This must not prejudice use of evidence or arguments later. Whatever the outcome, the defendant does not pay a penny for the preliminary stage, and will not usually be legally represented. Block cases going to full trial without the courts approval.

SECOND Do not recognise in the UK libel awards granted abroad. The Barclay brothers took libel action against The Times in a small regional French court and won. It is arguable that this was because French law is different making it easier for the to win, hence any repetition becomes a criminal offence enforcable in the UK with fines and extradition. The idea that a major national newspaper should be tried in a small Fench court where its circulation is approximately zero is absurd, but a legal fact.

Allow Foreign TV Channels on Sky

Margaret Thatcher saw the value of free speech and passed laws allowing UK citizens to easily watch foreign satellite TV channels. Freedom of speech and access to foreign sources helps democracy abroad. Yet in the UK the previous mixed-provider platform on Astra has been replaced with a system controlled by just one broadcaster, Sky. In theory non-UK channels can operate on the Sky platform, but in reality every channel is UK regulated by Ofcom or tacitly approved by Sky. It's market power makes direct competitors or types of channels Sky disapproves of unable to access the UK market. They can't get a transponder slot. If they do,m they can't get listed on the Sky EPG. If they do the cost is £25,000 or more per year.

This is an insurmountable hurdle for, say, a small French regional channel, that might want to broadcast to ex-patriot French working in Britain. A custom dish set-up is not an option for many people, particularly anyone in temporary accommodation.

The Sky platform has just 2 European channels, both bland state run "Best Of" packages. We should be strengthening our ties, not weakening them.

Not a Government issue? Not a freedom issue? Yes, Mr Moderator, it is. It will take Government action to force Sky (and Virgin, BT, etc) to carry european channels on request and at low cost, without UK regulation. (Dual regulation does not work).

Give the UK people freedom to hear the rest of the world, not just what big business wants us to hear.

Why is this idea important?

Margaret Thatcher saw the value of free speech and passed laws allowing UK citizens to easily watch foreign satellite TV channels. Freedom of speech and access to foreign sources helps democracy abroad. Yet in the UK the previous mixed-provider platform on Astra has been replaced with a system controlled by just one broadcaster, Sky. In theory non-UK channels can operate on the Sky platform, but in reality every channel is UK regulated by Ofcom or tacitly approved by Sky. It's market power makes direct competitors or types of channels Sky disapproves of unable to access the UK market. They can't get a transponder slot. If they do,m they can't get listed on the Sky EPG. If they do the cost is £25,000 or more per year.

This is an insurmountable hurdle for, say, a small French regional channel, that might want to broadcast to ex-patriot French working in Britain. A custom dish set-up is not an option for many people, particularly anyone in temporary accommodation.

The Sky platform has just 2 European channels, both bland state run "Best Of" packages. We should be strengthening our ties, not weakening them.

Not a Government issue? Not a freedom issue? Yes, Mr Moderator, it is. It will take Government action to force Sky (and Virgin, BT, etc) to carry european channels on request and at low cost, without UK regulation. (Dual regulation does not work).

Give the UK people freedom to hear the rest of the world, not just what big business wants us to hear.

Satellite Dishes for Flats

Allow occupants of flats to have satellite dishes fitted by registered dish fitters without requesting permission from landlords. One dish per flat, fixed position or steerable, up to 1.0 metre diameter. At present tenants have to ask permission and it is often refused if the landlord doesn't like the idea or has a shared dish on the roof – this forces the tenant to take the landlords choice, and usually plays into the hands of one large company. There are other satellites and nationalities out there. At best there are delays, prevarication and pointless paperwork.

Why is this idea important?

Allow occupants of flats to have satellite dishes fitted by registered dish fitters without requesting permission from landlords. One dish per flat, fixed position or steerable, up to 1.0 metre diameter. At present tenants have to ask permission and it is often refused if the landlord doesn't like the idea or has a shared dish on the roof – this forces the tenant to take the landlords choice, and usually plays into the hands of one large company. There are other satellites and nationalities out there. At best there are delays, prevarication and pointless paperwork.

Don’t Regulate Things That Don’t Need Regulating

Many recent laws have regulated things because they can be regulated, or because on MP has suffered a rush of blood to the head (perhaps after reading an inflamatory newspaper) and wants to control something. Resist the urge to control.

Ask does this NEED to regulated?

How much?

If the problem is rare, or the effect is minimal, or rule are easily circumvented, then don't regulate.

Which laws? Too many to list. Review all laws passed in the past 10 years and apply this principle. How did we manage without the law in the past.

Repeal, repeal, repeal.

Why is this idea important?

Many recent laws have regulated things because they can be regulated, or because on MP has suffered a rush of blood to the head (perhaps after reading an inflamatory newspaper) and wants to control something. Resist the urge to control.

Ask does this NEED to regulated?

How much?

If the problem is rare, or the effect is minimal, or rule are easily circumvented, then don't regulate.

Which laws? Too many to list. Review all laws passed in the past 10 years and apply this principle. How did we manage without the law in the past.

Repeal, repeal, repeal.

Let Councillors Have Opinions

If an elected councillor states that they think a proposed local development is bad for the area, the council solicitor jumps in and stops them voting on it.

If someone is elected on a particular platform – keep the local school open, support a bypass, support/oppose building flats, oppose airport expansion – and gets elected they are banned from voting on it!

Luncay!

But the law says councillors must approach each vote with an open mind, so a councillor with a (seemingly) pre-determined position is disqualified or the vote can be challenged.

Politics is based on policy, but anyone with a policy cannot vote!

Change the law so that:

Councillors for a specific affected area CAN have a pre-stated opinion.

Councillors outside the area should not, but are allowed to make biassed comments PROVIDED they are prepared to listen to arguments on both sides and allow the possibility that they may be persauded the other way.

Why is this idea important?

If an elected councillor states that they think a proposed local development is bad for the area, the council solicitor jumps in and stops them voting on it.

If someone is elected on a particular platform – keep the local school open, support a bypass, support/oppose building flats, oppose airport expansion – and gets elected they are banned from voting on it!

Luncay!

But the law says councillors must approach each vote with an open mind, so a councillor with a (seemingly) pre-determined position is disqualified or the vote can be challenged.

Politics is based on policy, but anyone with a policy cannot vote!

Change the law so that:

Councillors for a specific affected area CAN have a pre-stated opinion.

Councillors outside the area should not, but are allowed to make biassed comments PROVIDED they are prepared to listen to arguments on both sides and allow the possibility that they may be persauded the other way.

Public Sector Workers and Political Activity

Public sector workers – civil servants, council employees and others – are banned from any kind of "political" activity if above a particular grade. They may not "engaging in a range of political activities" even if they do not brief elected officers, the press or public, and the activity is totally unrelated to their work or even the work of their employer. For example, a computer technician on spinal point 44 and working for the local council cannot legally write to the local newspaper supporting a campaign to keep a local school open because political parties at the education authority would have differing views, making the matter "political".  If just one MP or councillor expresses a dissenting opinion the matter is political.

Technically it is not even legal for any public sector worker on Scale Point 44 or above (about £30,000) to post an idea here or even click on the vote button. This is absurd. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (section 2) was introduced to stop abuses where council workers had phantom jobs and were really party workers getting council pay. This abuse is rare today and well understood to be corrupt.

It might be argued that exemptions can be obtained by applying. But in many cases people want to keep work and politics separate, and applying for official permission ends up labelling people.

In some organisations people on SC44 are many levels below the top of the organisation, have never met the elected officers and do not brief press, public or elected officials. The definition needs to be tightened. The top 2 tiers of management should be banned from political activity. Departments and people specifically involved in briefing elected officers, public or press on political matters should be banned. Other people should NOT be banned.

Why is this idea important?

Public sector workers – civil servants, council employees and others – are banned from any kind of "political" activity if above a particular grade. They may not "engaging in a range of political activities" even if they do not brief elected officers, the press or public, and the activity is totally unrelated to their work or even the work of their employer. For example, a computer technician on spinal point 44 and working for the local council cannot legally write to the local newspaper supporting a campaign to keep a local school open because political parties at the education authority would have differing views, making the matter "political".  If just one MP or councillor expresses a dissenting opinion the matter is political.

Technically it is not even legal for any public sector worker on Scale Point 44 or above (about £30,000) to post an idea here or even click on the vote button. This is absurd. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 (section 2) was introduced to stop abuses where council workers had phantom jobs and were really party workers getting council pay. This abuse is rare today and well understood to be corrupt.

It might be argued that exemptions can be obtained by applying. But in many cases people want to keep work and politics separate, and applying for official permission ends up labelling people.

In some organisations people on SC44 are many levels below the top of the organisation, have never met the elected officers and do not brief press, public or elected officials. The definition needs to be tightened. The top 2 tiers of management should be banned from political activity. Departments and people specifically involved in briefing elected officers, public or press on political matters should be banned. Other people should NOT be banned.

Listed Buildings – Relax Rules

Constraints on listed builings are excessive. Conservation is placed above function, but even that is botched, resulting in a fairytale pastiche of a building as it might have been in some muddled point in the past, but not as if it were a living building. Often the workrounds are worse than what they are supposed to prevent.

Double glazing is not permitted, even sympathetic wood designs, because that did not exist.

Satellite dishes are not permitted – even hidden at the back, nor external TV aerials, no matter how poor the reception.

Front doors must follow the previous design, even if the original builder might have used half a dozen different styles.

An Elizabethan manon wall forming a 6 foot securiy barrier around a royal palace was recently rebuilt as it was falling over. The new wall used authentic lime mortar, at considerable risk of skin burns, but is 4 feet high in places becuase "it looks better". The original was meant to keep people out. But at least the mortar is authentic.

A Grade 1 Carnegie library was repaired and renovated over 15 months. Although using authentic paints, materials, etc, when it re-opened the entire top tier of shelves were empty – 1/5th of the books were missing. Community Noticeboards had been removed from the entrance because "they would not have been on the original tiled surface". So now local clubs and societies are not listed anywhere accessible. If there is a list no-one uses it. The building may look authentic, but its purpose has been forgotten.

Southwark Crown Court is a Grade 1 listed building. It has impressive carved oak doors between the courts. These do not have proper, near signs, saying "Courts 4-7 this way". Instead a sheet of A4 paper is printed out, put in a plastic sleve and blu-tacked to the door. it looks tacky. But it does not permanently alter the structure, unlike a nice ceramic plaque. But if the original builder was updating the building today which would they have done?

Too many restrictive rules are based on technical consistency, but ignore what the original builder would do today if faced with a new requirement, and make owners lives a misery.

Why is this idea important?

Constraints on listed builings are excessive. Conservation is placed above function, but even that is botched, resulting in a fairytale pastiche of a building as it might have been in some muddled point in the past, but not as if it were a living building. Often the workrounds are worse than what they are supposed to prevent.

Double glazing is not permitted, even sympathetic wood designs, because that did not exist.

Satellite dishes are not permitted – even hidden at the back, nor external TV aerials, no matter how poor the reception.

Front doors must follow the previous design, even if the original builder might have used half a dozen different styles.

An Elizabethan manon wall forming a 6 foot securiy barrier around a royal palace was recently rebuilt as it was falling over. The new wall used authentic lime mortar, at considerable risk of skin burns, but is 4 feet high in places becuase "it looks better". The original was meant to keep people out. But at least the mortar is authentic.

A Grade 1 Carnegie library was repaired and renovated over 15 months. Although using authentic paints, materials, etc, when it re-opened the entire top tier of shelves were empty – 1/5th of the books were missing. Community Noticeboards had been removed from the entrance because "they would not have been on the original tiled surface". So now local clubs and societies are not listed anywhere accessible. If there is a list no-one uses it. The building may look authentic, but its purpose has been forgotten.

Southwark Crown Court is a Grade 1 listed building. It has impressive carved oak doors between the courts. These do not have proper, near signs, saying "Courts 4-7 this way". Instead a sheet of A4 paper is printed out, put in a plastic sleve and blu-tacked to the door. it looks tacky. But it does not permanently alter the structure, unlike a nice ceramic plaque. But if the original builder was updating the building today which would they have done?

Too many restrictive rules are based on technical consistency, but ignore what the original builder would do today if faced with a new requirement, and make owners lives a misery.

Post Office To Compete On Equal Terms

One reason the Post Office is doing badly is that it cannot offer comptitive bulk deals to business customers the way that its private sector competitors do. It's rates are set by the regulator, its rate card published, and it sits there like a, er, sitting duck.

Second it cannot afford to modernise. It cannot borrow to do so. It's competitors can.

Thirs it's terms of business are defined by the regulator. Change is possible, but very difficult. Private business simply changes T&C on new contracts and offers existing customers enticements to sign up to the new T&Cs.

Want to change your delivery times, or targets for different mail types? Set a minimum charge for parcels? Offer personal delivery for big business, guaranteed so-many per day? Private business just does it. At best the Post Office takes 6 months to get regulator permission, at worst it gives up trying.

EITHER free the Post Office to compete on competitive terms,

OR free the Post Office from competition and having to balance its books.

Retain just these minimum rules

– at least one delivery per day to every front door in the UK, no matter how remote if they have post (and impose this on private letter carries too) 

– flat rate charge for letters and parcels across the entire UK for standard delivery

– standard delivery to be delivered in 2 days in 98% of cases

– standard delivery price to be set by the regulator (eg same as 2nd class now)

– daily collection from every letter box

And no others. No requirement for 1st class, recorded delivery, 2 deliveries a day, etc, etc. They might still do this, but it is not core, and they might charge competitive rates.

Why is this idea important?

One reason the Post Office is doing badly is that it cannot offer comptitive bulk deals to business customers the way that its private sector competitors do. It's rates are set by the regulator, its rate card published, and it sits there like a, er, sitting duck.

Second it cannot afford to modernise. It cannot borrow to do so. It's competitors can.

Thirs it's terms of business are defined by the regulator. Change is possible, but very difficult. Private business simply changes T&C on new contracts and offers existing customers enticements to sign up to the new T&Cs.

Want to change your delivery times, or targets for different mail types? Set a minimum charge for parcels? Offer personal delivery for big business, guaranteed so-many per day? Private business just does it. At best the Post Office takes 6 months to get regulator permission, at worst it gives up trying.

EITHER free the Post Office to compete on competitive terms,

OR free the Post Office from competition and having to balance its books.

Retain just these minimum rules

– at least one delivery per day to every front door in the UK, no matter how remote if they have post (and impose this on private letter carries too) 

– flat rate charge for letters and parcels across the entire UK for standard delivery

– standard delivery to be delivered in 2 days in 98% of cases

– standard delivery price to be set by the regulator (eg same as 2nd class now)

– daily collection from every letter box

And no others. No requirement for 1st class, recorded delivery, 2 deliveries a day, etc, etc. They might still do this, but it is not core, and they might charge competitive rates.

Abolish Stupid Restrictions on Pole Dancers

In a bizarre burst of Sir Humphryism, councils up and down the country have introduced huge rule books saying what pole dancers can and cannot do. In many council areas there are actual licence conditions banning a dancer from getting closer than 3 feet from their cutomer. How is this enforced? Is the dancer issued with a tape measure? If the customer is sat down is this measured from his face, hands or knees? If measured from his kneeds his face will be well over 4 feet away.

Other rules prevent dancers from flicking their hair.

Seriously, is this good use of the law?

Armies of public sector workers draft these rules, then write them into every licence, and even run training sessions! Club owners have to teach casual labouring staff – the dancers – every single rule, even if they only turn up once, because breaking the rules just once can lead to closure.

The more complex and lengthy rules are, the higher the risk that people will forget bits and misunderstand others.

Only one rule is required, and that is "No genital contact".

Why is this idea important?

In a bizarre burst of Sir Humphryism, councils up and down the country have introduced huge rule books saying what pole dancers can and cannot do. In many council areas there are actual licence conditions banning a dancer from getting closer than 3 feet from their cutomer. How is this enforced? Is the dancer issued with a tape measure? If the customer is sat down is this measured from his face, hands or knees? If measured from his kneeds his face will be well over 4 feet away.

Other rules prevent dancers from flicking their hair.

Seriously, is this good use of the law?

Armies of public sector workers draft these rules, then write them into every licence, and even run training sessions! Club owners have to teach casual labouring staff – the dancers – every single rule, even if they only turn up once, because breaking the rules just once can lead to closure.

The more complex and lengthy rules are, the higher the risk that people will forget bits and misunderstand others.

Only one rule is required, and that is "No genital contact".

Let Public Sector Workers Speak

Government rules ban any public sector worker above a certain wage or who briefs the public from publicly engaging in "political" discussion. This was to prevent councils having unofficial politicans on the payroll.

It applies to any matter where two politicians have different opinions, not just party politics. Say the local council wants to sell the local park for housing and turn your quiet side road into a dual carriageway. Some local councillors oppose it. That's political, and by Law if your earn above (I think) £28,000, you cannot sign a petition, write to the paper or speak at a local consultation meeting. If you do you can be sacked.

No public sector worker – council or Civil Service – above a certain grade – can legally post ideas on this site. They are bound to be opposed by someone somewhere.

It means a huge number of knowledeable, bright and/or experienced and articulate people are banned from contributing to local and national government of their own country.

Saying exemptions can be granted is not the solution. Sometimes people do not see eye-to-eye with the boss and want confidentiallity. Any insider posting information about council or Whitehall inefficiency here is legally banned, even if they keep it to general details.

Why is this idea important?

Government rules ban any public sector worker above a certain wage or who briefs the public from publicly engaging in "political" discussion. This was to prevent councils having unofficial politicans on the payroll.

It applies to any matter where two politicians have different opinions, not just party politics. Say the local council wants to sell the local park for housing and turn your quiet side road into a dual carriageway. Some local councillors oppose it. That's political, and by Law if your earn above (I think) £28,000, you cannot sign a petition, write to the paper or speak at a local consultation meeting. If you do you can be sacked.

No public sector worker – council or Civil Service – above a certain grade – can legally post ideas on this site. They are bound to be opposed by someone somewhere.

It means a huge number of knowledeable, bright and/or experienced and articulate people are banned from contributing to local and national government of their own country.

Saying exemptions can be granted is not the solution. Sometimes people do not see eye-to-eye with the boss and want confidentiallity. Any insider posting information about council or Whitehall inefficiency here is legally banned, even if they keep it to general details.

Race Equality Should Apply Both Ways or Not At All

Race equality should apply both ways or not at all. This is no longer the 1960s where isolated and marginalised immigrants had to beg for work and had no-one to turn to. Discrimination still occurs, but there are now many Black and Asian run businesses.

Does anyone seriously believe that some of the smaller businesses abide by Race Equality Laws?

That they have a diverse workforce?

That they publicly advertise vcancies?

That they even advertise in English or use English in the workplace?

That they buy goods and services from diverse suppliers?

No, some of the smaller businesses only advertise jobs through their religious community, in their ancestral language. If they advertise it is in a minority foreign language paper. They give preference not only to their own ethnic group, but to people from the same ancestral area. They speak a local dialect in the workplace.

When it comes to goods and services – accountancy, legal, building work, suppliers – they buy from their own.

Discrimination is at the level of Ethnicity, Religion, Language and even ancestral area.

And don't get them started on Gay rights.

Ethnic monitoring and Diversity Strategies are non-existent.

Some ethnic groups are among the worst racists, having unprintable opinions about other ethnic groups, particularly ones from different continents, but also blatantly discriminate against the indiginous White UK or White European population.

The Race Relations Laws should be applied to ethnic minority businesses equally, or they should be abolished.

Why is this idea important?

Race equality should apply both ways or not at all. This is no longer the 1960s where isolated and marginalised immigrants had to beg for work and had no-one to turn to. Discrimination still occurs, but there are now many Black and Asian run businesses.

Does anyone seriously believe that some of the smaller businesses abide by Race Equality Laws?

That they have a diverse workforce?

That they publicly advertise vcancies?

That they even advertise in English or use English in the workplace?

That they buy goods and services from diverse suppliers?

No, some of the smaller businesses only advertise jobs through their religious community, in their ancestral language. If they advertise it is in a minority foreign language paper. They give preference not only to their own ethnic group, but to people from the same ancestral area. They speak a local dialect in the workplace.

When it comes to goods and services – accountancy, legal, building work, suppliers – they buy from their own.

Discrimination is at the level of Ethnicity, Religion, Language and even ancestral area.

And don't get them started on Gay rights.

Ethnic monitoring and Diversity Strategies are non-existent.

Some ethnic groups are among the worst racists, having unprintable opinions about other ethnic groups, particularly ones from different continents, but also blatantly discriminate against the indiginous White UK or White European population.

The Race Relations Laws should be applied to ethnic minority businesses equally, or they should be abolished.

100 watt Light Bulbs

Give the public the right to buy 100 watt incandescent electric light bulbs. These have been banned by the EU in favour of fluourscents, but give a poor quality light. This causes eye strain, may lead to permanent eye damage, and some people compensate by turning on multiple lights or using secondary tungsten spot lights – this can increase electricity consumption.

The young need good lights for homework.

The elderly and middle aged often have some occular degradation, and require a sharp bright light to read small print on cooking instructions, medicines, etc.

By all means discourage use of high wattage bulbs – add a £1 environment tax – but don't outlaw them.

Why is this idea important?

Give the public the right to buy 100 watt incandescent electric light bulbs. These have been banned by the EU in favour of fluourscents, but give a poor quality light. This causes eye strain, may lead to permanent eye damage, and some people compensate by turning on multiple lights or using secondary tungsten spot lights – this can increase electricity consumption.

The young need good lights for homework.

The elderly and middle aged often have some occular degradation, and require a sharp bright light to read small print on cooking instructions, medicines, etc.

By all means discourage use of high wattage bulbs – add a £1 environment tax – but don't outlaw them.

Meaningful Exam Grades

Give employers and employees the Right to meaningful exam grades at GCSE and A level.

What does an A level "A" grade actually mean?

Has anyone seen a definition? No other grade system in public or private life is to poorly defined.

This does not do pupils and young adults any favours, as hard work and top grades are ignored and ridiculed.

It does not do employers any favours as they simply do not know how to discriminate between candidates, and probably reject potential excellent employees at the shortlist/sift stage without ever reading their achievements let alone meeting them.

Introduce a legally enforcable definition of the top 2 grades and the pass/fail boundary (others will follow naturally). For any subject with more that 1000 candidates an A grade could be defined as the top X%, a B the next Y% and fail less than Z% or less than U partly correct questions. (With over 1000 candidates there should be a "normal" and representative spread of abilities that is consistent from year to year, unless a particular subject is targetted by head teachers as being easy for thick pupils.)

To be honest, employers are less interested in absolute measures of ability, and more interested in comparing between candidates for selected key subjects – and that is not possible if a single grage covers a 40 point range.

Alternatively there needs to be some clear objective qualative definition that inspires confidence that an A grade in one subject represents the same level of intellegence, hard work, practice and learning as an A grade in a wildly different subject. Yes I realise that contradicts the above paragraph, but … this is very difficult to do without testing actual exam questions on statistically valid large number of benchmarked candidates – and that would of course mean revealing exam questions in advance.

Why is this idea important?

Give employers and employees the Right to meaningful exam grades at GCSE and A level.

What does an A level "A" grade actually mean?

Has anyone seen a definition? No other grade system in public or private life is to poorly defined.

This does not do pupils and young adults any favours, as hard work and top grades are ignored and ridiculed.

It does not do employers any favours as they simply do not know how to discriminate between candidates, and probably reject potential excellent employees at the shortlist/sift stage without ever reading their achievements let alone meeting them.

Introduce a legally enforcable definition of the top 2 grades and the pass/fail boundary (others will follow naturally). For any subject with more that 1000 candidates an A grade could be defined as the top X%, a B the next Y% and fail less than Z% or less than U partly correct questions. (With over 1000 candidates there should be a "normal" and representative spread of abilities that is consistent from year to year, unless a particular subject is targetted by head teachers as being easy for thick pupils.)

To be honest, employers are less interested in absolute measures of ability, and more interested in comparing between candidates for selected key subjects – and that is not possible if a single grage covers a 40 point range.

Alternatively there needs to be some clear objective qualative definition that inspires confidence that an A grade in one subject represents the same level of intellegence, hard work, practice and learning as an A grade in a wildly different subject. Yes I realise that contradicts the above paragraph, but … this is very difficult to do without testing actual exam questions on statistically valid large number of benchmarked candidates – and that would of course mean revealing exam questions in advance.

Encourage British Authors

Encourage British authors by giving them a financial lifebelt. Make the first £5,000 they earn from book publication each year tax free. even if they already pay income tax. Incentives will help first time authors and encourage published authors to go full time.

Expand the number of libraries monitored for author reward schemes and increase the number of British authors – not books – who receive payments based on library lending to 1,000. Raise the maximum author payment to £5,000 per year. (This might seem like spending more public money, but it will be self funding due to wages and taxes of publishers, printers, tax on films, etc – tax from just JK Rowling film would help hundreds of fledling authors.)

by lessimon

Why is this idea important?

Encourage British authors by giving them a financial lifebelt. Make the first £5,000 they earn from book publication each year tax free. even if they already pay income tax. Incentives will help first time authors and encourage published authors to go full time.

Expand the number of libraries monitored for author reward schemes and increase the number of British authors – not books – who receive payments based on library lending to 1,000. Raise the maximum author payment to £5,000 per year. (This might seem like spending more public money, but it will be self funding due to wages and taxes of publishers, printers, tax on films, etc – tax from just JK Rowling film would help hundreds of fledling authors.)

by lessimon

Restore Parents Rights To Detailed School Data

Ofcom school inspections used to provide parents with a wealth of factual data that could help parents see through wooly waffle and vague statements about "values" and "nurturing every child" and help parents decide if a school was good or not.

The right to this data has been destoryed with new simplified Section 5 reports. Restore this right now. At low cost schools could publish data every year. Or Ofstead could publish it for them. They already collect this data for the Government, so the extra cost would minimal.

Here is the information that I, as a parent, would look for when trying to shortlist schools or when considering moving to a new area:

Number of pupils (years 7-11 and sixth form separately), male and female numbers.

Number of teachers

New teachers in the year

How many established teachers have left

Teachers who have joined and left in the same year (staff turnover is an important indicator of an unhappy school).

Number of pupils who took every GCSE subject and numbers by grade band, by age or 1st attempt/2nd attempt (there is a huge difference between a school where most pupils take GCSEs in Hairdressing, Geography and Art at 16, bumping up the league table results, and schools where 14 year olds routinely sit Maths, and a third school where a minority of pupils sit hard subjects, and the same pupils resit once or twice if necessary to improve grades, but all three would score the same in league tables).

Number of pupils in GCSE points bands (do 10% of pupils get no GCSEs or 20%? Averages won't tell you that).

Ethnic breakdown of the school.

Class sizes.

Number of temporary exclusions and indication of how many pupils that refers to.

Number of permanent exclusions.

Pupil outcomes – number of Y11s gone on to further education categorised by 6th form in same school, Other 6th form, FE College, not gone on to further education.

        – number that have gone to University by rough Uni category (Oxbridge, Russel Group, middling, desperate, USA Ivy League) and subject or type of subject.

       – number employed / unemployed after 5 years.

by lessimon

Why is this idea important?

Ofcom school inspections used to provide parents with a wealth of factual data that could help parents see through wooly waffle and vague statements about "values" and "nurturing every child" and help parents decide if a school was good or not.

The right to this data has been destoryed with new simplified Section 5 reports. Restore this right now. At low cost schools could publish data every year. Or Ofstead could publish it for them. They already collect this data for the Government, so the extra cost would minimal.

Here is the information that I, as a parent, would look for when trying to shortlist schools or when considering moving to a new area:

Number of pupils (years 7-11 and sixth form separately), male and female numbers.

Number of teachers

New teachers in the year

How many established teachers have left

Teachers who have joined and left in the same year (staff turnover is an important indicator of an unhappy school).

Number of pupils who took every GCSE subject and numbers by grade band, by age or 1st attempt/2nd attempt (there is a huge difference between a school where most pupils take GCSEs in Hairdressing, Geography and Art at 16, bumping up the league table results, and schools where 14 year olds routinely sit Maths, and a third school where a minority of pupils sit hard subjects, and the same pupils resit once or twice if necessary to improve grades, but all three would score the same in league tables).

Number of pupils in GCSE points bands (do 10% of pupils get no GCSEs or 20%? Averages won't tell you that).

Ethnic breakdown of the school.

Class sizes.

Number of temporary exclusions and indication of how many pupils that refers to.

Number of permanent exclusions.

Pupil outcomes – number of Y11s gone on to further education categorised by 6th form in same school, Other 6th form, FE College, not gone on to further education.

        – number that have gone to University by rough Uni category (Oxbridge, Russel Group, middling, desperate, USA Ivy League) and subject or type of subject.

       – number employed / unemployed after 5 years.

by lessimon

Keep Civil Servant Details Private

The Conservatives pledged to publish the job titles for every member of staff in the Civil Service, and presumably all other public bodies.

This is dangerous.

And a massive breech of privacy.

There are good arguments for publishing some details of top staff, who suggest top level policies and brief Ministers, but 99% do not have this level of influence. Some have good reason for being selective about who they give their details to. A cousin of mine works for a Policing body. If her children's classmates knew that they would be beaten up regularly. Her car would be vandalised or sabotaged. If it were known that her husband has access to senstive data he would be a target for terrorists and organised crime. Most people have one or two dodgy relatives, some might be tempted to ask for favours. Neither my cousin or her husband are influential (or rich) so it is difficult to see what publshing their details would achieve. And publishing their grades would tell the whole world what salary they are on. From there it is a small step to putting peoples bank details on line.

By the way, their employer does not allow out-of-office phone messages, because that would make it easy for naughty people* to impersonate them while on holiday and exercise some Policing advantages or possibly hack their computers. Their neighbours know when they are on holiday, but not who they work for. These are genuine security and lifestyle issues. Redacting data would be unreliable and error prone.

Why is this idea important?

The Conservatives pledged to publish the job titles for every member of staff in the Civil Service, and presumably all other public bodies.

This is dangerous.

And a massive breech of privacy.

There are good arguments for publishing some details of top staff, who suggest top level policies and brief Ministers, but 99% do not have this level of influence. Some have good reason for being selective about who they give their details to. A cousin of mine works for a Policing body. If her children's classmates knew that they would be beaten up regularly. Her car would be vandalised or sabotaged. If it were known that her husband has access to senstive data he would be a target for terrorists and organised crime. Most people have one or two dodgy relatives, some might be tempted to ask for favours. Neither my cousin or her husband are influential (or rich) so it is difficult to see what publshing their details would achieve. And publishing their grades would tell the whole world what salary they are on. From there it is a small step to putting peoples bank details on line.

By the way, their employer does not allow out-of-office phone messages, because that would make it easy for naughty people* to impersonate them while on holiday and exercise some Policing advantages or possibly hack their computers. Their neighbours know when they are on holiday, but not who they work for. These are genuine security and lifestyle issues. Redacting data would be unreliable and error prone.

Stop Clampers Charging Extorionate Fees

Many reputable businesses hand car park management over to reputable clamping firms. They allow them to run car parks as a money making concession. Worse than that, the owner requires clampers to do that.

The reason is simple: the owner does not pay the clamper. The only money they get is when they actually clamp a car or van. They don't get paid for patrolling, putting up signs, deterring car thieves, etc. These routine activities are 100% cross-subsidised by clamping.

It does not cost £130 to fit a clamp when patrolling a car park anyway. It does not cost £130 to travel 100 yards and remove it. But it may cost that to employ someone full time and patrol at other times. This cross-subsidy is fundamentally wrong.

Make these contracts for no set fee illegal. Require the land owner to pay a Patrol Fee that covers the clampers day to day costs (or give them a cut of parking meter) and limit Release Fees to a cost that reflects reasonable time and effor for someone already in the area, with a mild punative element – say £20 total. Do not factor in the initial cost of clamping, as that can onlt happen if they are already in the area.

Why is this idea important?

Many reputable businesses hand car park management over to reputable clamping firms. They allow them to run car parks as a money making concession. Worse than that, the owner requires clampers to do that.

The reason is simple: the owner does not pay the clamper. The only money they get is when they actually clamp a car or van. They don't get paid for patrolling, putting up signs, deterring car thieves, etc. These routine activities are 100% cross-subsidised by clamping.

It does not cost £130 to fit a clamp when patrolling a car park anyway. It does not cost £130 to travel 100 yards and remove it. But it may cost that to employ someone full time and patrol at other times. This cross-subsidy is fundamentally wrong.

Make these contracts for no set fee illegal. Require the land owner to pay a Patrol Fee that covers the clampers day to day costs (or give them a cut of parking meter) and limit Release Fees to a cost that reflects reasonable time and effor for someone already in the area, with a mild punative element – say £20 total. Do not factor in the initial cost of clamping, as that can onlt happen if they are already in the area.

Ban Party Lists at Elections

For some types of election votes get to choose between Party LIsts. This is profoundly undemocratic. Voters who are, say, left-leaning, cannot diffrentiate between a hard left idealist and a compromising pragmatist, whatever their preference.

Instead of decisions about which person is elected being made by 30,000 voters (or whatever), the decision is made by a selection committee of perhaps 12. Worst case the reality is that the Selection Committee Organiser effectively puts the list together on his or her own. The top candidate is guaranteed to be elected. The 20th placed is guaranteed not to.

If a prospective candidate upsets the wrong person a jumped up Party Discipline rule is invoked to get them suspended, and Hey Presto, they don't get on the list. Party machines have favourites and will do anything to displace who is at the top of the list and gettheir candidate there. Thatcher and Blair were outsiders would never have been high on a List (OK, bad example). Churchill was seen as a troublemaker past his prime – a List system would have put Chaimberlain clones above him.

It's a scheme that Danton would have loved during The Terror period of the French Revolution. Or Stalin.

Why is this idea important?

For some types of election votes get to choose between Party LIsts. This is profoundly undemocratic. Voters who are, say, left-leaning, cannot diffrentiate between a hard left idealist and a compromising pragmatist, whatever their preference.

Instead of decisions about which person is elected being made by 30,000 voters (or whatever), the decision is made by a selection committee of perhaps 12. Worst case the reality is that the Selection Committee Organiser effectively puts the list together on his or her own. The top candidate is guaranteed to be elected. The 20th placed is guaranteed not to.

If a prospective candidate upsets the wrong person a jumped up Party Discipline rule is invoked to get them suspended, and Hey Presto, they don't get on the list. Party machines have favourites and will do anything to displace who is at the top of the list and gettheir candidate there. Thatcher and Blair were outsiders would never have been high on a List (OK, bad example). Churchill was seen as a troublemaker past his prime – a List system would have put Chaimberlain clones above him.

It's a scheme that Danton would have loved during The Terror period of the French Revolution. Or Stalin.

Abolish Elections !

Seriously, abolish Elections.

General Elections that is. I want freedom from short-term top-go management of the economy and politicians who support leaders and policies well past their sell-by dates because they know that if The Leader falls there will be a General Election, and thy too will fall.

Abolish crude system where an MP elected with a majority of 1 in a constituency where the vote was split 3 ways and turnout was low, has exactly the same weight as one with a clear absolute majority of the registered electorate.

Make votes cast against a guaranteed winner count for something.

Give supporters of a surefire winning party motivation to turn out or stay at home.

Here's how it works.

An MP elected with over 50% of the Registered Electorate is elected for 5 years.

An MP elected with 50% of the Votes Cast, but less than 50% of the Registered Electorate, is elected for 4 years.

An MP elected with less than 50% of the Votes Cast, for example where the vote is a Split Vote, is elected for 3 years,

In each calendar year there is a set Planned Election Day when MPs whose number of years is up see their constituents get another vote.  Usuallt this will be about the same time of year, but circumstances may make it sensible to change the date – floods, storms, volcanic ash, Olympics.

This way MPs who barely scape into Parliament can only claim a mandate for 3 years, ones who clearly represent their constituents can carry on for a full 5 years.  After each Mini-Election it would be clear if the previous Government still had a working majority.

Governments would change gradually, rather than do damaging full 180-degree turns every few years.

Voters would longer be afraid of voting the way they really want to. They might support a Party but loathe the local Candidate – today they vote for a candidate they loath because they don't want the other party to run the Country. In future they might be confident that whatever the result, the Government will not change in the next 12 months, allowing Local Voters to apply pressure to their Local Party to choose a candidate with Local Support rather than have a narrow clique of activists and Head Office impose a swivel-eyed idealogue.

In a typical year about 200 seats would be up for grabs, rather than the full 600-650. Poorly performing MPs and unpopular ones would soon get the message and work harder to represent their public. A strength of this idea is simplicity – apart from length of tenure, all MPs are equal – there are no fractional or weighted votes.

And if a Government totally fouled up and was unable to govern, there is nothing to stop a General Election being called, it just would not be routine and automatic. 3 years later gradualism would re-assert itself.

Make MPs more responive, stop abrupt policy reversals every 4 or 5 years. Elect MPs for variable terms.

Why is this idea important?

Seriously, abolish Elections.

General Elections that is. I want freedom from short-term top-go management of the economy and politicians who support leaders and policies well past their sell-by dates because they know that if The Leader falls there will be a General Election, and thy too will fall.

Abolish crude system where an MP elected with a majority of 1 in a constituency where the vote was split 3 ways and turnout was low, has exactly the same weight as one with a clear absolute majority of the registered electorate.

Make votes cast against a guaranteed winner count for something.

Give supporters of a surefire winning party motivation to turn out or stay at home.

Here's how it works.

An MP elected with over 50% of the Registered Electorate is elected for 5 years.

An MP elected with 50% of the Votes Cast, but less than 50% of the Registered Electorate, is elected for 4 years.

An MP elected with less than 50% of the Votes Cast, for example where the vote is a Split Vote, is elected for 3 years,

In each calendar year there is a set Planned Election Day when MPs whose number of years is up see their constituents get another vote.  Usuallt this will be about the same time of year, but circumstances may make it sensible to change the date – floods, storms, volcanic ash, Olympics.

This way MPs who barely scape into Parliament can only claim a mandate for 3 years, ones who clearly represent their constituents can carry on for a full 5 years.  After each Mini-Election it would be clear if the previous Government still had a working majority.

Governments would change gradually, rather than do damaging full 180-degree turns every few years.

Voters would longer be afraid of voting the way they really want to. They might support a Party but loathe the local Candidate – today they vote for a candidate they loath because they don't want the other party to run the Country. In future they might be confident that whatever the result, the Government will not change in the next 12 months, allowing Local Voters to apply pressure to their Local Party to choose a candidate with Local Support rather than have a narrow clique of activists and Head Office impose a swivel-eyed idealogue.

In a typical year about 200 seats would be up for grabs, rather than the full 600-650. Poorly performing MPs and unpopular ones would soon get the message and work harder to represent their public. A strength of this idea is simplicity – apart from length of tenure, all MPs are equal – there are no fractional or weighted votes.

And if a Government totally fouled up and was unable to govern, there is nothing to stop a General Election being called, it just would not be routine and automatic. 3 years later gradualism would re-assert itself.

Make MPs more responive, stop abrupt policy reversals every 4 or 5 years. Elect MPs for variable terms.

Secure Bank Payments

The right to secure banking must be restored. Debit cards are not a secure payment system and are worse than cheques. Banks must be forced to give customers a secure payment system.

 Banks have decided to eliminate cheques just as soon as they can get away with it. They have already forced customers to have debit cards, and persuaded most retailers to drop cheques in favour of debit cards.

 Why? Supposedly because debit cards are safer and cost less to process. The reality is that debit cards transfer all risk from the bank to the customer – if the customer alleges a fraudulent transaction it is the customers problem, not the banks. In the past the bank had to prove that the customer had been negligent, now it is the other way round.

 Cheques provide clear physical proof of a transaction. Debit cards do not – there is no signature to be proved and no proof of time or location (there have been instances of these being faked). Every single time someone makes a transaction, they give the other party all the information required for fraudulent transactions by phone – 16 digit card number, account name and expiry date. No biometric is required – signatures may not have been perfect, but a fake can usually be spotted. No finite document is required – the card details do not wear out.

 Debit cards were supposedly more secure because the chips could not be copied. But 4 years after introduction pretty well every debit card still has an easily copied magnetic strip.

 Anyone can use a stolen or fake card with impunity. Cards must carry photos and, to detect different photos, the photo must be displayed and transmitted to the bank and stored each time the card is used.

 Banks must report all fraudulent use to the Police, no matter how small. Currently handling is delegated to banks, who may be tempted to sweep it under the carpet.

 All fraud must be deducted from bank profits and clearly reported as such in Annual Reports to shareholders. It must not be considered an operating cost, or passed on to customers.

Here is what is essential:

Change the law so the main theft risk lies with the bank, not the card holder.

Change the system to one where data used in one transaction is useless for another.

Validate all transactions with a random biometric including cardholder not present.

Withdraw all magnetic strip devices urgently.

Report all theft/fraud to the Police.

Deduct all financial losses from theft/fraud from profits and clearly report this to shareholders.

Why is this idea important?

The right to secure banking must be restored. Debit cards are not a secure payment system and are worse than cheques. Banks must be forced to give customers a secure payment system.

 Banks have decided to eliminate cheques just as soon as they can get away with it. They have already forced customers to have debit cards, and persuaded most retailers to drop cheques in favour of debit cards.

 Why? Supposedly because debit cards are safer and cost less to process. The reality is that debit cards transfer all risk from the bank to the customer – if the customer alleges a fraudulent transaction it is the customers problem, not the banks. In the past the bank had to prove that the customer had been negligent, now it is the other way round.

 Cheques provide clear physical proof of a transaction. Debit cards do not – there is no signature to be proved and no proof of time or location (there have been instances of these being faked). Every single time someone makes a transaction, they give the other party all the information required for fraudulent transactions by phone – 16 digit card number, account name and expiry date. No biometric is required – signatures may not have been perfect, but a fake can usually be spotted. No finite document is required – the card details do not wear out.

 Debit cards were supposedly more secure because the chips could not be copied. But 4 years after introduction pretty well every debit card still has an easily copied magnetic strip.

 Anyone can use a stolen or fake card with impunity. Cards must carry photos and, to detect different photos, the photo must be displayed and transmitted to the bank and stored each time the card is used.

 Banks must report all fraudulent use to the Police, no matter how small. Currently handling is delegated to banks, who may be tempted to sweep it under the carpet.

 All fraud must be deducted from bank profits and clearly reported as such in Annual Reports to shareholders. It must not be considered an operating cost, or passed on to customers.

Here is what is essential:

Change the law so the main theft risk lies with the bank, not the card holder.

Change the system to one where data used in one transaction is useless for another.

Validate all transactions with a random biometric including cardholder not present.

Withdraw all magnetic strip devices urgently.

Report all theft/fraud to the Police.

Deduct all financial losses from theft/fraud from profits and clearly report this to shareholders.